“Coontie and nectar plants attract rare atala butterflies to your yard”

“Coontie and nectar plants attract rare atala butterflies to your yard”

Photo: Sally Scalera, Florida Today

“Florida Today ran an article in 2017 about the Atala butterfly that was previously thought to be extinct but had been discovered again.

Since that time, the butterflies have made a resurgence and have expanded their range.

The Atala’s primary host plant is our native coontie, Zamia integrifolia, and because they are a popular landscape ornamental, the butterfly has made its way up to many parts of Brevard County.

The coontie is native to most of the Florida peninsula, where its natural habitat has well-drained soil dominated by pine trees. It is hardy from zones 8B through 11, and can survive winter temperatures as low as 15 degrees.

Originally, they were found throughout hammocks and pinelands, but due to the excessive collection of its starchy root and use in the landscape, it is rarely found in the wild now. Collection of wild coontie plants is prohibited, because they are on Florida’s Commercially Exploited Plant List…

If you would like to support atala butterflies, plant coontie and nectar plants in your yard, then keep your eyes peeled for the small little butterflies, with the blue stripe and red spot. ”

— Sally Scalera, Florida Today

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The Spiderwort blooming in Wakulla county

The Spiderwort blooming in Wakulla county

Photo: Les Harrison

“Spring is the season of flowers in Wakulla County and the other locations in Florida. While there are blooms during the year’s remaining seasons in the relatively moderate climate of Panhandle Florida, it is spring which displays the majority of the blossoms.

It is fitting that Juan Ponce de Leon named this state, albeit indirectly. He landed somewhere on the eastern seaboard of Florida after a quick hop from Puerto Rico after being removed as governor.

While sailing around to the Gulf of Mexico the conquistador named the territory La Florida in recognition of the prolific array of flowers. In 1513, the year of his first visit, there were only native species present.

Since then, a number of exotic plants have been introduced to sometimes better effect, and sometimes worse. A major expense for commercial agriculture and home landscapes is controlling undesirable alien plant species which were introduced as potential ornamentals…

Spiderworts are often seen along fence rows, in pastures and untended fields, and in forested areas. They bloom from late spring to early summer and usually grow in clumps or bunches of plants.

The plant clumps are easily separated and transplanted. Spiderwort has been used in ornamental horticulture as a showy, low-cost alternative for many years.

In the wild and landscape settings, they expand their presence slowly but persistently. Their distribution reflects the ability to proliferate…

To learn more about native plant in Wakulla County, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://wakulla.ifas.ufl.edu/. To read more stories by Les Harrison visit outdoorauthor.com and follow us on Facebook.”

— Les Harrison, Wakulla Chronicle

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Environment: “Destiny’s death buys time for a Florida frontier and the birth of conservation movements”

Environment: “Destiny’s death buys time for a Florida frontier and the birth of conservation movements”

Photo: Kevin Spear, Orlando Sentinel

“The expanse of wild lands between Central and South Florida was given a second chance for conservation when, in the heart of it, the Destiny development was reincarnated as DeLuca Preserve. This landscape picture here is from the neighboring of Three Lake Wildlife Management Area.

Anthony Pugliese III closed in 2005 on a $137 million purchase of 27,000 acres he called Destiny.

The property at Yeehaw Junction in south Osceola County is surrounded by large preserves and ranches. Destiny would be the first invasion of houses and businesses amid a landscape that connects the best environments of South and Central Florida.

‘It was going to be like a can opener, prying its way for more development into one of the wildest frontiers left in the state of Florida,’ said Carlton Ward Jr., a conservation photographer.

Like many Florida dreams, Destiny collapsed into a heap of recriminations and legal troubles. But its failure opened the door to transformation of the 27,000 acres into DeLuca Preserve.

Pugliese was then a veteran South Florida developer from Delray Beach. His partner was Fred DeLuca, co-founder of Subway restaurants, who was cited by Forbes magazine then as being worth $1.5 billion and the world’s 512th-richest person…

The tract they acquired had been a quarter of the 100,000-acre ranch assembled in the 1930s by Latimer ‘Latt’ Maxcy, who died in the 1970s as a titan among Florida ranchers.

Latt Maxcy Corp. believed the 27,000-acre sale was the region’s largest land deal since Walt Disney bought his kingdom. ‘At this time,’ the corporation said when the deal closed, no details had been ‘released as to the buyer’s plans for the property.’

That would come a year later when Pugliese and DeLuca unveiled their ambitions, including features to attract a quarter-million residents.

Huge risks

They designed the community for canals, waterborne taxis powered by electricity, health clinics for the boomer generation, organic restaurants, a biomedical research center and a biomass energy plant.

Pugliese said the location, the Yeehaw Junction of three major highways, was an ‘aligning of the stars…’

But the proposed development was viewed as an abomination by the Florida Department of Community Affairs. DCA was the state’s vaunted watchdog for growth and development regulations.

There was a reason the per-acre price of the would-be city was relatively cheap at less than $5,000. The land had no development permissions and was far from government services.

DCA sparred with Destiny at every juncture. Then came more resistance to the project.

The housing bubble burst and the Great Recession began in 2007. Proposed developments across Florida bled out…

Destiny’s visionary, Pugliese, was sentenced in 2015 to six months in jail for defrauding DeLuca, who had died of cancer a few months earlier and whose estate took ownership of the land.

‘Yeehaw Junction is rural, almost wilderness and no place for urban development,’ said Thomas Pelham, DCA secretary and vocal foe of Destiny when it was in play.

A University of Florida sign for DeLuca Preserve stands near Yeehaw Junction in south Osceola County and 70 miles south of Orlando…

Hibernating giant

At the least, many environmentalists figured, Destiny’s death bought time to keep one of Florida’s last frontiers alive.

Photo: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda, Orlando Sentinel

‘I don’t know if I was ecstatic as much as ‘thank God,’’ said Julie Morris [Florida program manager for the National Wildlife Refuge Association and director of the Florida Conservation Group], who grew up on ranch and natural spaces and has worked for government and nonprofit conservation groups.

‘I drive by it all the time and all I could think about for years was, if this goes for development, I think I used the phrase that we might as well pack up and go home,’ Morris said.”

— Kevin Spear, Orlando Sentinel via WUSF 89.7 Public Media

Read more details on new Conservation Science, view maps and understand the people behind the ranch lands and wildlife corridor movements who helped protect and preserve Florida’s scenic beauty.

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“NFL Kicks Off Super Bowl LV Community Greening Program”

“NFL Kicks Off Super Bowl LV Community Greening Program”

Photo: in Patch – Super Bowl volunteers create sand dunes at Picnic Island Park
“Each year, a symbolic Super Bowl ‘Golden Shovel’ is passed from one Super Bowl host community to the next. The National Football League, Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Tampa Bay Parks and Recreation, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL partner Verizon and Force Blue special operations veterans joined forces for this iconic moment, which is the kickoff for numerous Super Bowl LV community greening projects.

Back-to-back Super Bowls in Florida allow for a unique passing of the ‘Golden Shovel’ from Miami to Tampa Bay. The final Super Bowl LIV community greening project in Miami included a sand dune restoration at Crandon Park and the handing over of the ‘Golden Shovel’ to a Force Blue diver who transported it to from Miami to Tampa – emerging from the water with shovel in hand for a unique Florida ‘Golden Shovel’ presentation to the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee.

In advance of the ‘Golden Shovel’ presentation, Tampa Parks and Recreation built sand dunes at Picnic Island to help prevent erosion and protect against storm damage. Volunteers and Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful planted those sand dunes with 900 plants including sea oats, dune sunflowers, railroad vine, muhly grass and cordgrass to help prevent erosion. Volunteers worked in small groups and followed safety protocols as a precaution against COVID19…

Other planned community greening projects include a large mangrove restoration project at Picnic Island, a beautification project to create a pollinator garden at Veterans Memorial Park, a large tree planting at the Boys & Girls Club in Wimauma, creation of a vegetable garden and community compost project at the Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful Environmental Education Center at Reed Park, native plantings and cleanups at Lowry Park and at McKay Bay Nature Park, and one of the most innovative Super Bowl environmental projects, the continued restoration of a Florida coral reef.”

— Dana Gordon, Patch
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Amazing Nature Photos: “Pasco Parks Supervisor Documents Signs Of Spring, Hope”

Amazing Nature Photos: “Pasco Parks Supervisor Documents Signs Of Spring, Hope”

Photo: Mark Berlinger, a supervisor at the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in Pasco County, FL

“Amid all the fear, tension and frustration during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the beauty surrounding you in Florida.

While everyone was hunkered down at home, spring officially sprung March 19.

As befuddling as the concept of linear time might seem after six weeks of quarantine, the tilt of the Earth on its rotation around the sun means the changing of seasons remains, literally, an unstoppable force of nature…

As a reminder, Patch is sharing some amazing nature photos taken by Mark Berlinger, a supervisor at the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, 10500 Wilderness Park Blvd., New Port Richey.

Many Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources parks and facilities are open for limited recreational activities including hiking, biking, swimming and jogging…”

— D’Ann Lawrence White, Patch Staff
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Coconut Grove: “Miami will bloom with new orchids”

Coconut Grove: “Miami will bloom with new orchids”

Photo: City of Miami Twitter

“Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood will be flush with orchids in the near future.

On Monday morning, city of Miami officials, representatives from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s Million Orchid Project and volunteers began planting hundreds of native orchids in the neighborhood.

The Million Orchid Project was launched in 2014 to bring back the orchid population by having a new generation of seedlings planted in urban areas.

‘Launching the Million Orchid Project to Coconut Grove brings all the things we love about the Grove together: environment, history and beauty,’ Miami city commissioner Ken Russell said on Twitter.

At a press conference Wednesday morning along Main Highway in Coconut Grove, Russell said ‘our goal is to put 100 orchids on every mahogany tree on Main Highway over the coming months…So as these bloom in the coming years, you’re going to see a sense of the Grove that we remember from long ago.’

The orchid species that will be planted in the Grove include the cowhorn orchid, clamshell orchid and butterfly orchid…

More than a century ago, before railroad expansion, the region’s ecosystem bloomed with orchids that grew on native trees, Fairchild officials said…

Last year, the Million Orchid Project planted thousands of orchids throughout Miami Beach and about 250 at Tivoli Lakes in Boynton Beach. ”

— Johnny Diaz,South Florida Sun Sentinel
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